The European Union is in the process of replacing its technical coordination office in Phnom Penh with a full-fledged delegation. The change is part of the EU’s new strategy for Asia that was unveiled in September. One of its goals is to strengthen ties with Southeast Asian nations, said EU Ambassador Klauspeter Schmallenbach.
A charge d’affaires will soon be named to head the Cambodian delegation as the representative of Schmallenbach, who will remain based in Bangkok.
“We will have a full diplomatic presence in Cambodia to deal with all policy matters,” Schmallenbach said.
The name of the charge d’affaires should be released later this week, once Cambodian authorities have been informed, he said.
The EU, which plans to establish delegations in all Asean nations to expand its political and trade relations in the region, has selected Cambodia as a priority, Schmallenbach said.
“The EU has given particularly strong support to the rehabilitation and development process of Cambodia after the tragic events that we all know,” he said. Over the years, this has included rural development, malaria control and disarmament projects. It also included financial support and a large contingent of observers during the 1998 elections, Schmallenbach said.
“And we will now do something we’ve never done before, [offer] support for the February commune elections on a substantial scale,” Schmallenbach said.
The EU will contribute approximately $3.38 million to fund technical assistance, equipment like ballot boxes, and observers, in its first-ever foray into local politics.
In addition to its new delegation in Cambodia, the EU plans to establish delegations in Malaysia, Singapore and Laos in the near future.
“The EU has always attached a great importance to [ASEAN],” Schmallenbach said.
The EU’s last strategy paper on Asia was adopted in 1994. Its new objectives in the region include trade and investment, poverty alleviation, security, political development, human rights and democracy.
The EU currently has 128 delegations and representations in the world.